James Avery, born on November 27, 1945, was a globally celebrated and widely acclaimed actor and poet. He was popularly known for the famous roles he played including Phillip Banks in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and Shredder in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” He also brought to life the character of Judge Michael Conover in “L.A. Law,” Steve Yeager in “The Brady Bunch,” Horoud Hazi Bin in “Aladdin,” and Dr. Crippen in “The Closer.” His career took off during the 1980s after making an appearance in “Hill Street Blues” which aired on N.B.C. He also featured in the Showtime sitcom known as “Brothers,” where he played the role of Bubba Dean and in “Amen.” In 2007 and 2012, he was the commencement speaker for his alma mater, U.C. San Diego’s Thurgood Marshall College. He was a prolific and extremely skilled writer and today we are honored to celebrate him.
James LaRue Avery is a household name when it comes to legendary actors. His skill and vigor catapulted his career and made him an inspiration to so many others. He was born on November 27, 1945, in Pughsville, Virginia. He was born and raised by Florence J. Avery, his mother. His father denied paternity and hence was absent in his life. His mother relocated to Atlantic City, in New Jersey, shortly after he was born. He grew up in New Jersey and later on, in 1968, he served in the U.S. Navy up to 1969, throughout the Vietnam War. When he came back, he relocated to San Diego, California. It was there that he started to write poetry and eventually television scripts for P.B.S. He received an Emmy Award during his time there for production. This was followed by a scholarship to U.C. San Diego.
Avery then enrolled in Thurgood Marshall College, which was known as Third College then. He eventually graduated in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and literature. His career took off during the 1980s after making an appearance in “Hill Street Blues” aired by N.B.C. He became popularly known for the famous roles he played notably, Phillip Banks in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” a role that positioned him at number 34 in “T.V. Guide’s” 50 Greatest T.V. Dads of all Time. He also played Alonzo Sparks, the lead role in “Sparks,” the U.P.N comedy series. It went on for two consecutive seasons.
He was also in “The Division” as Charles Haysbert as well as Michael Kelso’s commanding officer at the police academy in “That 70’s Show.” Although the role came in a bit late in the series, it was still very notable. He also voiced Shredder in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series together with James Rhodes/War Machine in the “Iron Man” series in 1990. He brought Junkyard Dog to life with his powerful bass in “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” which ran from 1985 to 1986. During the same year 1986, he also played Turbo in “Rambo and the Forces of Freedom.” He also played the character of Judge Michael Conover in “L.A. Law,” Steve Yeager in “The Brady Bunch,” Horoud Hazi Bin in “Aladdin,” and Dr. Crippen in “The Closer.”
James Avery serves in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.
Avery features in the “Iron Man” series as James Rhodes/War Machine.
Avery lands the role of Haroud Hazi Bin in “Aladdin.”
He becomes the commencement speaker for his alma mater, U.C. San Diego’s Thurgood Marshall College.
Why We Love James Avery
He was a patriot
James Avery will always remain a hero to all of us. He was among the soldiers that served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He came back as a war hero and for that, the United States of America will forever be in gratitude for his bravery and patriotism.
He valued family
Among his main core values was family. Growing up with his father being absent, shaped Avery into the man he knew he wanted to be. He was loyal to his wife and gladly became the stepfather to her son even though they never had children of their own.
He had writing prowess
He started to write poetry and eventually television scripts for P.B.S. after he got back from the war and relocated to San Diego. He received an Emmy Award during his time there for production. This was followed by a scholarship to U.C. San Diego.
5 Surprising Facts
He passed away on New Year’s Eve
James Avery lost his life while in hospital on the night of New Year’s Eve.
He went through surgery
He had gone through open-heart surgery for an undisclosed ailment.
He didn’t know Will Smith
Before Smith auditioned for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Avery did not know who he was.
He became Uncle Phil at 49
He was 49 years old when he became Uncle Phil at the start of the show.
His law firm referenced a musical group
His law firm as Uncle Phil was named, “Firth, Wynn, and Meyer” which was a reference to the disco band “Earth, Wind, & Fire.”
James Avery FAQs
Was James Avery in “Grey’s Anatomy?”
Avery played Sam in the season eight “Grey’s Anatomy” episode “One Step Too Far.”
Is Uncle Phil dead in real life?
Avery died on December 31, 2013, at Glendale Memorial Medical Center following complications from open heart surgery.
What did James Avery whisper to Will Smith?
Recalling his poignant embrace with Avery, Smith says: “I fall into his arms at the end of the scene, and he’s holding me and the shot pans off, and he whispers in my ear “Now that’s acting.”
James Avery’s birthday dates